Published on: February 27th, 2008
Written by: J. Michael Straczynski, Peter David
Art by: Ron Garney, Todd Nauck, Ron Cliquet, Colleen Doran
Marvel Comics, 336 Pages
This was a pretty good trade paperback and a pretty bad one, all at the same time. Let me explain.
Spider-Man’s Aunt May is hit by a sniper’s bullet meant for Spidey. The reason Spidey is being hunted is because a few months prior during the major Marvel event Civil War, Spider-Man publicly revealed his secret identity. Since then, he and his family have been in danger and the bullet hitting Aunt May is a culmination of that.
Spider-Man then falls to the dark side more or less, returns to wearing his black costume and thus brings the ruckus to the criminal underworld in an effort to discover who was behind the hit.
On his hunt, Spider-Man throws his personal code and morals out the window and basically becomes the Punisher with Spidey powers. Ultimately, his hunt leads him to the Kingpin, which results in an epic beat down of the Kingpin in front of his fellow inmates in prison.
That part of the plot was awesome but it was over pretty quickly. The tone was perfect, dark side Spidey was compelling and if you have ever been a fan of the character, it wasn’t hard to connect to his grief, emotion and quest for vengeance. Then the other 60 percent of the book ruined it.
For the remainder of Back In Black, Spider-Man acted like his old self while wearing black – cracking jokes, generally being a good lighthearted buddy to his friends. It was just odd how his behavior was, as the story was tied into his quest for vengeance and his total lack of anything other than hardcore justice.
Spidey spends the rest of the book helping Sandman clear his dad from a crime he didn’t commit. This leads to Spidey getting tied up with some new villainous chick made out of spiders, who just wants to get knocked up. It was a very poor rehash of that shitty 90s film Species. Frankly, this was all pointless and unnecessary to the overall tale and point of the Back In Black concept.
The trade paperback then ends with a story called Sandman: Year One, which is moderately interesting but has nothing to do with Back In Black and actually features Spider-Man in his red and blue outfit and not even in the black one. But whatever, the more random stories that Marvel throws in this thing, the more they can charge for it.
Additionally, throughout this book, Aunt May is in critical condition in the hospital. They follow this plot thread but then never reveal if she recovers or not.
If you ever do pick this thing up, read the first five chapters Back In Black 1-5, skip out on the rest of the book and save yourself some time. Unless you want to know why Betty Brant is afraid of toilets.
Pairs well with: Other Spider-Man stories from the Straczynski era.